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How to Uncover Your Unique Photography Style

August 11, 2021

Just like the clothes we gravitate toward, the home decor we naturally love, and the hairstyles that make us feel most like ourselves—we all have a unique sense of style that translates to our photography practice. But unlike clothes or throw pillows, to uncover your unique photography style, it requires a bit more soul searching […]

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I'm a photographer, educator and soon to be podcaster. I left teaching in the classroom to build a thriving photography business. and inspire and teach other like-minded women how to build, scale, and create a photo business.

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Just like the clothes we gravitate toward, the home decor we naturally love, and the hairstyles that make us feel most like ourselves—we all have a unique sense of style that translates to our photography practice. But unlike clothes or throw pillows, to uncover your unique photography style, it requires a bit more soul searching and asking yourself a few important questions.

To me, photography style is more than just the photos you take or the edits you make. It’s everything about who you are as an individual and an artist. It’s your story and background that has brought you to this place in your life and your career. And it’s every decision you make in a photo session that allows you to build a signature je ne sai quoi that becomes a guiding force throughout all of your work. 

For example, my unique photography style embraces family’s personalities both as a unit and as individuals; it brings out each person’s light, joy, and love; and it concentrates on light as an accent in my photos to create an ethereal, warm, and magical end product. Because I grew up with divorced parents and a split family unit, it’s mega-important for me to capture my clients’ love as a family and help them feel like their best selves. I want their goodness to shine through the lens, and I want them to remember the moment of their session as a happy time together.

Do you know what your unique photography style is? If not, don’t you worry a pretty hair on your head… I’ve got you covered! Let’s walk through some questions to ask yourself to begin to understand your own style.

1. What has happened in your life that affects your art to this day?

Like my parents splitting at a young age, think about any core, big moments in your life that affect how you approach photography, creativity, and art. Because my family had its own troubles, I always want to do my best to make sure the families I work with feel comfortable and able to kick back, have fun, and make memories together. I didn’t have that a lot growing up, and so it’s my mission to allow others to experience it during their time with me!

By connecting with every member of the family and helping them relax, it allows the photo progression to feel more natural and everyone can just be themselves in front of the camera. This totally affects the photos and how clients feel as we work through a session.

2. What photography features do you like to incorporate in every shoot?

Are you big into portraits? Do you love sweeping landscape shots? Maybe you’re like me and love to find interesting lighting, or you prefer to use shadows, moody colors, or high contrast as a creative feature.

Notice what feels good and right and inspiring to YOU, and what you seek to incorporate into your shoots every single time. Just like some of us gravitate toward jeans and others gravitate toward sundresses, our natural inclination for what we like and naturally incorporate is a big part of what makes up our photography style. Observe the practices and habits that you are attracted to in your photography work, and then try to hone those.

3. What emotions are you good at emitting from your clients?

I love a serious moment that shows the depths of my clients’ love. Some photographers are amazing at capturing pure joy; others are good at documenting a tender, quiet moment of reflection in their clients. What emotions are you good at drawing out of your clients, and that you tend to pull out of most of your clients?

4. What kind of photography inspires you the most?

When you look at other photographers’ work, what makes you feel the most inspiration and excitement? Generally, that’s the sort of work that we can aspire to achieve in our own art. Notice the commonalities—tones, colors, lighting, lines, subjects, placement, exposure, emotions—and see how you can weave those into your own work on a regular basis.

5. How do you want you and your clients to feel at the end of a session?

This is almost as important as the photography itself: How do you want to FEEL at the end of a session? How do you want your clients to feel? If you’re constantly feeling drained and depleted by the end of your sessions, it’s likely that you’re trying to force a style to work that isn’t your own. If your clients seem uncomfortable or uncertain, there might be room to work on your connection with them, which will in turn enhance your style.

I aim to feel accomplished and joyful at the end of every session because I know I’ve fulfilled a bit more of my purpose. And, I want my clients to feel like they’re totally themselves and like they just had fun hanging out with their loved ones. Those feelings absolutely translate to the end product!

Whew, I know it’s a LOT to think about, but by asking yourself these questions and jotting down the answers, we can really hone in on each of our unique photography styles that sets what we do apart from other photographers. Your style is what you’ll become known for, and what people seek you out for. And it’s what will keep you inspired and engaged in this work for the long haul, because you’ll be fulfilling what matters to YOU, and that’s more important than anything else.

There are a few seats left for my upcoming Photo 101 workshop!

Come learn from me in person & I’ll show you how to shoot in manual, pose your subjects, & take GORGEOUS, effortless pictures, every single time.

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I’m Jillian Goulding, a photographer and educator raising babies and building my life in Sacramento, CA.

Over the years, I’ve transformed my side hustle into a thriving photography business that has taken me and my camera to the beaches of San Francisco Bay, the pages of People Magazine, and the screens of Extra TV.

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